Third Down: A Giant Problem
Although they were 0-2 entering this week’s game, there was optimism that this Giants defense was on the right track.
In the first two games, they played well enough to win. They gave up 26 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and 17 points to the Chicago Bears in Week 2, shutting the Bears out in the second half of last week’s game.
That is what made the 36 points that they gave up to the 49ers in Week 3 so stunning, especially considering that San Francisco was without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, All-Pro tight end George Kittle and their top two running backs. In short, it was a significant and disappointing fail for the Giants’ young defense.
What was behind this stunning fail?
The Giants defense forced the 49ers into 12 third-down situations. But that means nothing, as the Giants defense allowed the 49ers to convert eight of those 12 third-down attempts, a 66.6% conversion percentage.
And here’s what’s even more disheartening. The Giants gave up first downs on seven third-down plays where the 49ers needed four or more yards to keep the drive alive. The result? The 49ers dominated the clock.
The Giants defense had to deal with five drives that lasted for five or more minutes. The 49ers almost doubled the Giants time of possession, 39:44 to 20:16. That type of discrepancy usually ends in a loss for the team on the short side of possession.
Essentially, San Francisco was able to play keep-away from the Giants offense, which is still trying to find its identity, to get on track.
That lopsided time of possession also meant that defensive players were playing more snaps than they probably should have—the defense was on the field for 73 plays, which no doubt left them gassed as the game wore on as they surrendered three touchdowns in the second half.
“Obviously it sucks to lose but I want to see the tape,” said linebacker Blake Martinez. “I think it’s going to still come down to the same things we’ve been talking about the last two weeks, just fundamentals and making sure we’re in the right spot leverage wise and not making stupid mistakes and just not hurting ourselves.”
The pass defense hurt on third down. Out of the ten pass attempts on third down, the 49ers completed six passes for 85 yards. The Giants also had an illegal contact penalty that resulted in a 3rd-and-22 turning into a first and 10, with many of those passes were completed to tight ends and running backs in the intermediate area.
The pass rush was able to sack quarterback Nick Mullens twice, but neither came on third down, and the pass rush wasn’t as impactful as you’d like to see.
After the game, Coach Joe Judge was not ready to comment on the state of the defense or any other unit, but he did say, “Obviously we have to all do our job better. It starts with coaching better and we gotta make sure we put players in the right position.”